Monday, April 30, 2007

Colored Water

I went to Girls Preparatory School for grades 10-12 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Last week I had my 50th reunion since I graduated in 1957. It was amazing to go back to the South.
When I first visited Chattanooga in the forties there were seperate water fountains at the station for the Lookout Mountain Incline. The fountains were on the outside wall right under that canopy on the above post card. There were two signs: White and Colored. I remember asking my mom if the "colored sign" on the fountain meant that the water was like a rainbow. Colored water sounded pretty good to me. Later when we moved to Chattanooga in 1953, the signs were still up, but I had learned what they meant.
By the way, the Incline is pronounced with a strong "In".

Rights of Way Give Away

Georgia has just passed in both houses a bill which virtually eliminates local control of public rights of way. The telecom giants have been pushing this hard. One rep counted 47 lobbyists from ATT who had been pursuing her. This is happening in many states: the telcoms want to deliver video, but without the public interest safeguards and equity that cable has been forced to give. Cable access has been an important resource for many communities, with channels and funding for educational, government and public access. Up to now Atlanta has had a good public access: The Peoples Channel. It is these "PEG" channels which have enabled Democracy Now with Amy Goodman to have a wide audience across the country. Without airtime, this resource will probably disappear.In the future they will probably have to share one channel with the other PEG entities: government and education. State by state, access to local media has been getting harder as the suits call the shots in state legislatures. In Georgia they won for now. This means less air time for community members and less funding for the media centers that train and host neighborhood media. One of the consequences of this sort of legislation is that mayors and city councils lose the power over their own infrastructure. For example ATT will need to set up "street furniture" to house the computer equipment necessary to convert signals to video. Or they can put any man hole anywhere and paint it. The corporations can now control the municipal rights of way. See for some potential scenarios. The bill is at it is euphemistically entitled "Consumer Choice for Television Act". It should be called the Public Rights Give-Away Bill.

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Every week anti-war folks in Atlanta meet in front of the high rise office buildings on Peachtree Street at Colony Square in Atlanta's midtown. of the signs ask for honking for support. It was heartening to hear the many honks. I would say at least one out of every four cars honked.The stark and alienating buildings contrasted with the well worn, scraggly signs.This vigil has been going on for several years. My sister Betsy is a loyal participant.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

PBS at the Crossroads

Last night I saw a few moments of a back lit Richard Perle in the most infuriating piece of Bush propaganda that PBS has ever devised, America at the Crossroads. (sic-- once again we see the US referred to as "America") The New York Times reviewed the Perle segment yesterday. Danny Schecter tells me that the series was one of Michael Pack's projects. Pack, who headed the Corporation for Public Television formerly directed Worldnet, a service of the U.S. Information Agency, then parent of the Voice of America. So I guess he was well versed in producing propaganda. I think the media reform community needs to address the whole issue of so-called "public media"-- both PBS and NPR. My friend Tony says that PBS is beyond hope. I know there are many who think that way. We might not be able to really change it, but making an effort to struggle would clarify issues around the whole notion of "public interest".
Years ago I was part of a struggle to "make public television public". Here are some of the documents from that 70's battle.There was even an article in TV Guide.Channel 13, WNET TV's license was challenged by a New Jersey coalition. WNET is licensed in New Jersey and hardly ever has paid attention to that state. We challenged the whole structure of financing which gave control of program content selection to corporations. My own role was as President of Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, demanding greater funding and channel space for independent and diverse productions.We demanded that the boards of public television stations be elected and that all board meetings (including committee meetings) be open to the public.The struggle was picked up by a British magazine, which covered the "row" over millions of CPB/PBS dollars going to the BBC for a Shakespeare series. That issue brought major labor support for our cause. The AFL-CIO testified with us in Congressional hearings. That's me at the Steinbeck. Our coalition included the Consumer Federation which issued its own position paper. Warren Brarren was our liason.There were demands for public interest satellite space, which was finally won with 4% of DBS funding in the 1990s and which has meant space for Freespeech TV, Link TV and many universities, such as the University of California.The CFA also demanded that commercial broadcasters pay a fee for use of public airwaves. Of course, instead, they are now the recipients of the biggest give-away in communication history.The New York Times took up the cause of independent production.But the trade paper, Show Business, understood that the struggle was for control, not crumbs. The battle had many fronts. There was a law suit by the Emergency Civil Liberties Union. After years of lobbying and demonstrations, independents did get language in the public broadcasting legislation that said "a substantial portion of production funding should go to independent producers". Although it would take years before a mechanism for that was established: ITVS the Independent Television Service, which funds productions for public television.Perhaps the most important victory of our coalition was legislation requiring all public television boards of directors (any entities receiving CPB(Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the funding mechanism) be open to the public. That includes committees, except for personnel committees. This opening has not been adequately used. For example, groups around the country could go to their local PTV (or NPR) station's board meetings and demand that Democracy Now! be broadcast in their community. Or young people could demand that programming that address their issues be developed. Or seniors. Or health care advocates. Or people who object to the sort of blatent propaganda that the Crossroads of America represents could ask for equal time. To read more about that series, see Gary Kamiya's article on Salon at:

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

April Snow

The blackbirds hunker down on the branches of the locust tree.

Cell Phones vs Trees and Bees

They have started building a cell tower in Woodstock. These photos show that we have lost what has been a long struggle. I have not been against cell service for Woodstock. In the sort of “Alice’s Restaurant” theory of consolidating trash, I assumed that the tower would be put in the same place as an old defunct Time Warner tower. Wrong. They have chosen a site about three hundred meters from the old site, running into beautiful woods on the edge of the mountain.Was replacing the old tower not an option because it is too close to Califronia Quarry residents (which is their excuse) or because it doesn’t get reach enough of the Hudson Valley? The location chosen by JNS is a pristine wooded ledge quite a bit further north from both the Time Warner tower and a temporary tower which is now aimed at Woodstock. Building a road, several maintenance sheds and a huge tower in a whole new patch of ground just didn’t and still doesn’t make sense to me. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of trees have been cut from the side of Woodstock's Overlook Mountain. That mountain is the most often painted site of the "Hudson River School". Many of the stumps have been bullodzed together into a pile. The road to the site is long and perplexing. Why is this site pointed AWAY from Woodstock? I think it is really aimed at Rt. 87 (the NY Thruway) and the cities north of us (Catskill and Hudson). Every day new cell technology is being developed (see the Wall Street Journal of March 26, 2007 with a special section about new wireless developments). There may be new options that will service the entire town, not just the center. Meanwhile the town has a legal reason to get out of what looks to many as a deal clouded with questions both technical and ethical. The town obviously doesn't want anytone taking pictures of the devastation.
Today I read the following article and the whole issue of cell phones is beginning to look very terrifying:

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees
By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross Published: 15 April 2007

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail. They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast. CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: "There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK." The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left". No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks. German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause. Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real." The case against handsets

Evidence of dangers to people from mobile phones is increasing. But proof is still lacking, largely because many of the biggest perils, such as cancer, take decades to show up. Most research on cancer has so far proved inconclusive. But an official Finnish study found that people who used the phones for more than 10 years were 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side as they held the handset.

Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives. Studies in India and the US have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. And, more prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of "text thumb", a form of RSI from constant texting.Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official inquiries, warned that children under eight should not use mobiles and made a series of safety recommendations, largely ignored by ministers.

The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things

I went to the Yvon Lambert Gallery (550 West 21st Street) to see the exhibit by Joan Jonas. The exhibit is based on a performance series she did at Dia Beacon. This exhibition is called The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things. I've known Joan for thirty five years. In the early seventies I rented her loft on Grand Street during the summer. I took sound for Double Lunar Dogs, and I also played Omi Wise on the violin for a performance she gave at Anthology Film Archives. Omi Wise is one of the songs on the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music. The haunting refrains of that song are alot like Joan's work.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Tiny Town

Just outside of Madrid, New Mexico, is a sculpture park/miniture golf course called Tiny Town.Tammy Lange is the creator of this space. When we were there she was planning to host the Madrid Easter Egg Hunt at her yard.